My 2 cents on the whole LTO plate frame thinggy

July 3, 2014

So the LTO come out with a new ruling banning the use of plate covers, frames, or any other accessories that could make the new plate numbers in cars less visible. Within minutes, the Internet caught fire. At least in the Philippines. Every second person I know in the car circle posted something about it, creating Internet traffic that would put EDSA to shame. A day or so later, a million man March was organized nationwide to overturn the ruling.  It was people power at it’s fittest. Yes. As in, worked out.

Many car enthusiasts took to social media to cry foul; they were calling for blood in language so colorful it would make Gordon Ramsay blush. It was the kind of reaction (from one sector at least) that would make Jinggoy, Revilla, Napoles, and yes, even the Ampatuans, seem like petty thieves. In fact, give it a day or two, if you type in the word “Bobo” (dumb) “tanga” (dumber) and similar words, Google will automatically direct you to LTO.

But is this ruling really that bad? Well let’s take a look at some of the comments. On second thought, let’s not. My kids visit this site. So let’s just summarize the key points instead. Because from what I can I can make out, it is:

  • We have the right to make our cars look good.
  • LTO plates are so crappy, we need to protect them.
  • Hey, LTO, with all the problems to address, why make a big deal about this? It is so f****** petty!

At the risk of stepping on a cyber land mine here, allow me to give my two cents. And for the sake of space, I’ll jump straight into the final point: “With all the problems to address first, why make a big deal about this? It is so f****** petty!”

Exactly! Great point! So why, with all the problems we face, are we, as motorists, making a big deal about it if it is so f****** petty?  Let’s pick our battles.

I can feel the hate coming on, and I’m sorry if this upsets you, but honestly, at the end of the day, I need to say it: what are we fighting about here? Stupid or not, a number plate is the official identification of a motor vehicle. It is like a birth certificate or driver’s license––and you wouldn’t personalize those, would you? It needs to be uniform; and in the case of a moving vehicle, very visible. Once you place a plate cover, it is no longer uniformed. So whether or not you agree, is it worth People Power 4?

But then I’ve been asked a hundred times, what harm is there in putting a CLEAR cover or a simple plate frame over it?

And I say: well, yes. That’s another very good point. But what harm is there in not? I’m not trying to be patronizing or sarcastic here; I also love to dress up my car. But the hypocrisy here is, at least for me, is I’m saying: I love cars, write about cars, get on my soapbox to try and make our driving environment as good as it can possibly be, constantly rant and rave about all the wrongdoings out there and crave for order, yet as soon as the LTO hand down an order that tries to replicate international standards (you know, the stuff that we beg for) I cry foul? I don’t think so. I pick my battles.

Besides, if you’re so inclined, you’re still allowed to chrome everything from the doorhandles, to your grilles, to around keyholes, to the entire body (in the case of of jeeps) to placing family stick men decals on your rear windows, to slapping on endless bumper stickers, to featuring an all-you-can-fit-stuffed-toys-on-your-rear-parcel-shelf; is it too much to ask to keep our number plates sacred? Paki usap lang po.

Because the problem here is, if you start by allowing a plastic frame here, a glass cover there,  a Euro plate underneath, a Philippine flag or a company logo, where do you draw the line?  Soon you have people arguing with traffic enforcers about the shade of tint used on the plate cover, the thickness of the frame, the color of it, or whether it’s one of those flashing colorful LED plate frames. Where does it end? To think this is over the modification of a government issued form of national identification that is meant to be read in split seconds during times of a traffic violation or crime being committed.

This is not even about me agreeing or not; personally, I would love to put my glass plate cover on my number plate. But if the law says no, then no. I could question it, but what for? Some might disagree, but we still haven’t had a win with something as straightforward as speed limiters getting installed into buses––which, I think you might agree, is a lot more profound than a plate frame. So let’s pick our battles.

Now I do get the point about plates deteriorating and the painful replacement once they do. But that’s LTO’s problem. Not ours. Trying to defy the law based on the logic of “I’m only protecting you from yourself” is no different to appointing yourself as the human speed limiter when you hog the left lane on the highway and keep everyone at a pontificated 99km/h. It isn’t your job. If the plates deteriorate with weather, stone chips, the wind at high speeds, then so be it. I’ll be the first to join the chorus of L-T-O, t******mo, I-told-you-so.

But for now, let’s pick our battles.

About the Author

James Deakin
James Deakin is a multi-awarded automotive journalist located in Manila, Philippines. He has a weekly column in the Philippine STAR's motoring section, is a motoring corespondent for CNN Philippines and is the host of the Philippine motoring television show Drive, which airs every Sunday night at 10pm on CNN Philippines.